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Kids get fired up for First Night

Wed., Dec. 31, 2008, 6 a.m.

One by one they lined up, clutching light-up plastic swords and other goodies. Some were marmots, others were space aliens. A few were Vikings, and some didn’t know what they were – their creativity surpassed their vocabulary.

“I’m just doodling,” Lindsay Davis, 13, said as she put the finishing touches on a sticker-covered brown paper bag that served as her mask for the parade through downtown Spokane.

The masquerade parade capped an afternoon of arts and crafts and the Spokane Convention Center, where hundred of children celebrated First Night, the annual downtown New Year’s celebration.

Thousands have flooded River Park Square and surrounding streets to celebrate with their families since the event began eights years ago. Attendance was down this year, but kids like Lindsay and their families still enjoyed the night’s activities, particularly the parade.

“When you get to participate, it’s better than just watching …You get to be the center of attention,” Lindsay said.

“Which is always the best,” added her cousin, Camille Botello, 10, of Grangeville, Idaho. Lindsay and her mom, Kim Davis, had traveled from Denver to visit family in Spokane. Camille and her mother, Alexandra, joined them, and the family planned to spend the night at a downtown hotel.

It was their second First Night, and they promised it wouldn’t be their last.

“There’s something for everyone,” Kim Davis said. “We’ll make it a tradition.”

Music filled the convention center as knee-high New Years revelers checked out different crafts, took pictures and played with friends.

A First Night volunteer dressed in a dragon costume was a big hit.

Three-year-old Elijah Soter of Spokane stared the dragon in its face and reached to touch his nose.

“That’s his favorite part, I think,” said his father, Joel Soter.

But the dragon wasn’t impressive enough to sway 6-year-old Ruby O’Neil into declaring it her favorite part of the night.

She settled for a more inclusive answer: “All of it.”

“This is better than staying home,” said her father, Pat O’Neil. “We’ve been feeling a little cooped up.”

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